Magazine article Art Monthly

Local Stories

Magazine article Art Monthly

Local Stories

Article excerpt

Local Stories Katerina Seda Modern Art Oxford March 7 to April 30

Katerina Seda shows two strong works at Modern Art Oxford and these fulfil two roles: by themselves they constitute the latest in a series of exhibitions entitled 'Arrivals>New Art From The EU' and simultaneously they ground the group show upstairs, 'Local Stories'.

Both of Seda's works are documented interventions. The first, There is Nothing There, 2003, involved orchestrating a day in which all the inhabitants of Ponetovice, a village in the Czech Republic, coincided in their routine activities. They all swept the pavement in front of their houses at 10am, for instance, lunched on dumplings with tomato sauce at noon and turned their lights out at 10pm. There is a great volume of paperwork presented--a manifesto and charts detailing the devising of the project, numerous posters and letters documenting its implementation--and the video of the event itself, including feedback from the participants, appears at the end on a small monitor. Nothing is held back, yet we are left in no doubt that we would have to do something similar ourselves in order to understand such an event fully.

The rawness of some of the English translations--for instance, 'This ... threw me for a loop'--highlight the national and cultural distance this work has travelled. Meanwhile, some of the very details that seem most unfamiliar from a British perspective are precisely those that call into question the value of difference: the title of the leading newspaper, for instance, is Equality.

There is Nothing There, which jump-starts the thematic group show installed above it, is a complex work that exposes the fantasy of absolute consistency and discovers the pleasure of shared activity and common purpose. It is salutary to be reminded that solidarity is something constantly won and lost in the 'games', 'actions' or 'regimes'--all Seda's terms--in which we find ourselves taking part.

The second work by this young artist is It Doesn't Matter, 2005. Here the locality shifts from village to family--the broader localities of country and planet, of nationality and humanity, remain open to question--and another engaging event is staged, another story developed. The scenario opens with the artist frustrated by the inactivity of her grandmother. It closes with a large book full of drawings by the older woman: confident and detailed renderings of the stock at Brno's Home Supplies Shop, all meticulously recreated from memories of 33 years spent running the tools room. Recognising the tablecloth that sits in the gallery from the domestic photograph on the wall we get the connection but I was left wishing for a more prodigious installation of the drawings that resulted from the artist's granddaughterly prods and 'supervision'--the effusion of over 650 tools is somehow constrained by the book on the table.

Photographs in the stairwell lead us up into Mark Neville's installation of The Port Glasgow Book Project, 2004. This work involved the artist photographing a particular community over an extended period and publishing the results in a book. Just enough books were printed to allow one for every member of the community and the complimentary copies were delivered by boys from the local football team. …

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